Katherine Heigl was asked Sunday, with some difficulty, if she is difficult.
NPR’s Eric Deggans asked the former “Grey’s Anatomy” star the question during a Television Critics Association panel about her upcoming NBC drama, “State of Affairs.” It was a complicated, multi-part question, but one that attempted to let Heigl clear the air about what it’s like to work with her.
The question was as follows: Some stories in the entertainment press have indicated that she and her mother, an executive producer on the show, may be “difficult to work with.” But others have suggested that Hollywood is punishing Heigl with such a reputation because she is a woman who speaks her mind. Additionally, Heigl recently gave an interview in which she said her career was at one point out of her control.
So, asked Deggans: What’s really the truth?
“Umm…” Heigl said, followed by a long pause.
Executive producer Ed Bernero tried to fill the silence by saying that in the time he’s worked with Heigl —
“Seriously, I want to hear it from Katherine,” Deggans interrupted.
“Rude,” said Bernero.
Heigl asked for a repeat of the question, and got one. Then she answered.
“I don’t know that I said my career was not under my control. Are you referring to the Marie Claire article?” she asked. “I think I said I had stopped challenging myself and I was making choices that I loved, that I was excited about — I love romantic comedies, I love watching them — but I stopped sort of exercising different muscles of my ability. And at that moment I felt that I was sort of letting down my audience and wasn’t challenging them either.”
(Heigl’s recollection is correct: She told Marie Claire UK that she became worried that she was doing too many romantic comedies and felt that “my best friend for a long time suddenly turned on me.” She also said she had “stopped challenging myself.”)
She said she was returning to television with “State of Affairs” because it was an “extraordinary” story and opportunity. She plays an analyst on the show who delivers a daily intelligence briefing to the president (Alfre Woodard).
“It’s an opportunity to flex some different muscles and show a different side of myself as an actor and performer and storyteller that I hope my audience will be excited about and love,” she added.
Then she addressed the “difficult” question.
“I can’t really speak to that. I can only say that I certainly don’t see myself as difficult. I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult … I think it’s important for everyone to conduct themselves professionally, respectfully and kindly.”
The talk of her being allegedly difficult comes from her conflicts with writers and producers on “Grey’s.” She also once said “Knocked Up,” a film in which she starred, was “a little sexist.”
There was at least one other trying moment during the panel: Heigl was asked what her mother, Nancy Heigl, actually does on the show. (According to the panelists, she does the same job as any other executive producer.)
It was possible to read a couple of insinuations into the query: Perhaps Nancy Heigl was riding her daughter’s coattails, or was there to protect her from run-ins with producers.
The younger Heigl would have none of it.
“She makes us cookies,” she said.